Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Added 14 March, 2012. All of you thousands of sudden visitors to my site, who came here today via the "Google doodle" or by Google-imaging "Akira Yoshizawa"---I am immensely flattered, but am just a humble student of the late great master.

If you like this "Head", you might like to know that the sculpture was shown during a talk at the fabulous Yoshizawa animal origami exhibit at the SieboldHuis JapanMuseum in Leiden, the Netherlands, last year, where I was invited to speak. A few Yoshizawa images from that exhibit may be viewed here. (It's what you came for after all... )

Poke around my blog if you want to see what modern paperfolding art looks like---at least my modern paperfolding art.

Your appreciation of origami, warms the heart.


ORIGINAL POST (January 2011)

Head, by Saadya

Made for Jaron Borensztajn of Amsterdam, collector and grandson of Felix Tikotin, the great Japanese Art collector and dealer who arranged for Akira Yoshizawa his first proper exhibit outside of Japan: the 1955 exhibition at Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum.

More news about Yoshizawa in Holland—hopefully soon.

Instructions for this head, all except the ears (a recent development) can be found in my book, Sculptural Origami, which will be out any day now. This sculpture is from a single uncut rectangle of watercolor paper, acrylic-painted on one side; then wetfolded—an old technique, not coincidentally, of Yoshizawa's.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stephan Weber

Last week I had a communication out of the blue from Stephan Weber, first by email then by Skype. Stephan had recently gone back to doing human heads (“masks”) and must have been pointed to my site, where he found a lot of similarity of intent with what I've been doing.

I first encountered Weber at “Masters of Origami” in Salzburg, 2005, a show put together by the Red Bull corporation. That was a landmark exhibit, full of first-rate origami some of which was also high art indeed—but Stephan's pair of giant, almost snorting red bulls, struck me as that exhibition's focal point. Immense, vigorous, detailed, absolute icons of latent power, I could not take my eyes off them. Stephan tells me he was tasked by Red Bull to make them about a week before the show opened, and complied.

Stephan divides his time between Germany (was it Cologne?) and Patagonia, Chile. What he does in Chile I don't know, except that he likes to go fishing and is rebuilding after a hostel he owned was destroyed by a volcano. In Germany he works the holiday season folding and selling on the street. (These details are sufficiently sketchy that I'm sure Stephan will pardon me for disclosing them.) This constant practice over the years has made Stephan the fastest folder in the world, and also attuned him to what delights an audience and where in the longer sequences their patience flags. That in turn has shaped his approach to paper and his concept of an ideal origami design: it had better be short and effective.

At “Masters of Origami” I was too shy to ask him to make me one of his bulls (a ten-minute folding job for him), though Joseph Wu was lucky enough to get one. We didn't really communicate. But I watched from the side as he did his public folding, surrounded by Austria's fashion models—young blond Claudia Schiffer lookalikes—who were gazing on, wearing an expression of rapture.

It's strange but one lives one's life vicariously, through other people too or more exactly fantasies of them. We do it with them and they do it with us. He is jealous of where I've gone with the Faces or the thin layer of analysis that stretches over the spontaneity, in origami and other things; or the fact I can string a few sentences together. I am jealous of his speed in folding; of his animal spirits with the paper, and very sure sense of paper's qualities; and especially of his direct contact with people, the most extreme and direct form of origami connection, that almost no one else has. Also the persistence and spirits needed to do this 11 hours a day, 40 days on end. He sings for his supper: what do we do? That's what's called earning one's living honestly, not this writing of books or or giving lectures or doing commercials or all the other stuff origami professionals do for a buck, no offense. I can't do what he does but I can sure admire it. And living out in beautiful reaches of South America half the year, well for me that's just another unlived fantasy.

I tried folding his Bull twice (first from a visual reconstruction, later from diagrams), but had trouble with the proportions. In terms of a teachable sequence, it is a crude, ugly fold, with few landmarks. That is OK; not all origami has to have the goal of teachability or repeatability. We can't all be hyper-referencers like Komatsu or strict 22.5-degree-enjoyable-sequencers like Roman Diaz. There is real virtue, if also drawbacks, to the raw, blind attack on the square of paper, wrestling the form from it almost without thought (but with the benefit of years of tactile experience) in the most direct and quick manner. Speed! Touch! Results!--And if possible also: linelessness!

Of his animals, the Bull is far and away the best; others, like the Squirrel, the Hounds, can't help calling to mind comparable models by other designers (LaFosse, Komatsu, Montroll, Joisel, Yoshizawa) and not always gaining from the comparison. I think there are great advantages to maintaining a certain distance from the broader origami world, but periodic contact and competition is a good thing too and it is undeniable that origami has progressed faster and farther than other arts because of its extra social & communicative dimension. Yet some people need a certain isolation to develop a purer sense of themselves, and I very much respect that. Certainly one grows more curious about these characters who keep themselves apart. I am rooting for the holdouts.

Added February 17, 2011. I am pleased to learn today (it had nothing to do with me) that Stephan Weber will be a featured guest at the 1st Origami Canada convention, to be held in Vancouver, BC October 5-9, 2012.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Fashion in Bloom

In origami it is the smooth surface and clean initial shape that I love, out of which erupts 3D form and line and texture, catching the eye at every instant.

This eruption out of purity and simplicity, and the retention of it for as long as possible, or the transformation of it into other, reduced forms as the development progresses, is what I like in the work of the best origami designers, those few who know the true cost of complexity. But it is a characteristic also of some of the most beautiful shapes in nature, those of many birds, for example; or flowers, which retain an innocence or a cleanness of line even as their parts differentiate and complexify and turn into the sophisticated instruments of attraction that they must necessarily be.

So it is with special interest that I am following the career of one particular designer—not of origami, but of haute couture—whose work has some of this very innocence and sophistication of the floral bloom, its fragility and its might, its order and its organic casualness. She is one of several fashionistas around the world now incorporating origami into their work at a quite high level. But her line in couture reminds me of paperfolding, or its hopes, even when it does not, for instance, incorporate tessellations into a throw-shoulder piece.

What strength and femininity there is, in that floral eruption.

You'd think the theme of the bloom would have been completely mined by now in the fashion world. But when it arises out of one's nature, as it does with this designer, the bounty can be endless.

One day I will do a show with her.

I met her in Budapest in 2009 as a guest of the Hungarian Origami Society.
Not so well known outside her country, she deserves to be.